Annie Turnbo Malone pictured in a souvenir booklet about her cosmetology school, Poro College in St Louis Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Museum to Feature Exhibit on Annie Malone, First Black Woman to Become a Millionaire


The Peoria Riverfront Museum recently announced a new exhibit dedicated to Annie Malone, the first Black woman to become a millionaire. 

At a news conference, the CEO and President of the Illinois Museum, John Morris, teased the launch of the exhibit. Titled the “Life and Legacy of Annie Malone,” the exhibit is expected to be the biggest display of the entrepreneur’s life in the country. Personal artifacts of Malone’s will be included in the new exhibit. 

Per WCBU, the great-great-nephew of Annie Malone was involved in the creation of the museum’s display; also present at the conference as part of the signing ceremony, Agabara Bryson donated artifacts from their family’s personal collection for the exhibit. 

Available on display starting from Sep. 16, the “Life and Legacy of Annie Malone” will also be part of tours by the Every Student Initiative. Created in 2017, the program helps students from grades K-8 learn through free museum visits. 

“We have momentum in the story of Annie Malone to build confidence to spark learning, and to do what this museum is committed to doing every day and unleash the full talent and genius of every individual,” said Morris at the conference per WCBU News

The creation of the new exhibit was announced on what would have been Malone’s 154th birthday. Born in Metropolis, IL on Aug. 9, 1869, according to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Malone is considered to be one of the biggest pioneers in the beauty industry, breaking barriers alongside other beauticians and entrepreneurs such as Madam C.J. Walker. 

Motivated by her love for styling hair and her acknowledgment of the effect of personal style, Malone began to experiment with various chemicals, eventually creating a line of hair products that helped hair grow faster, such as the “Wonderful Hair Grower,” and treated the follicles from the scalp.

Considered to be one of the first Black women to become a millionaire, Malone ran a successful business for over three decades in the early 20th century. 

In 1902, as her business began to thrive, Malone went on to found Poro College. Named after spirituality, Poro College was one of the first Black-owned cosmetology schools that employed women from ages 16 to 80. The college’s reach expanded from North America to the Philippines, providing job opportunities to more than 75,000 Black women. 

The school and center also held religious and social events for the Black community, serving as headquarters for social justice meetings and providing shelter to up to 500 people who were affected by a large-scale tornado in 1927

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